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the structure and mrs. muir
Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 5:20 pm
Despite my extreme ignorance in the realm of most Band Nerd-esque topics, one nerdy question I've always thought myself capable of dissecting is that of album structure. Song structure is a pretty common topic, but what of album order, rhythm, tone? How are they affected by track numbering? These days, what with the kids and their mp3s and iPods, the ordered album experience is rarer, but certainly no less important. What happens if you put a perfectly-numbered album on "random"? Does it lose or gain? Is it important to take songs out of album context in order to properly assess their strengths, or is it better to let them play off of one another?
I bring it up on this board because one of my original (mostly internal) debates on WIPTF was the placement of "Blanket Hog" and the decision to close with "Mimi." Over the course of several commutes I realized that, for me, the expanse of "Blanket Hog" divided the album into two parts--a division that sticks with me still (on a recent vacation I had the album in the beachhouse stereo and rotated "side A" and "side B" in the mornings when I dressed). One of the things I loved about TWYCDIH is how coherent it felt--despite the years between some of the songs, it felt great as a played-through album. I hesitated to skip any track, lest I disrupt the rhythm. I don't think WIPTF lacks coherence, but I do think of it in a completely different way. I skip around, I hit repeat on favorite songs, I play it like a party album.
So, kids, I wonder: how do you feel about album structure and of Long Winters album structure in particular? Is there current Industry Wisdom regarding the best way to lay out your album? Would you care to re-arrange any tracks?
Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 6:13 pm
I think alot of an album does come out of how the songs are placed on an it, and i think artists will put the songs in a way they want a certain message to be heard. I just got out of middle school and my teachers have been drilling this one writing format onto us for some eight years: Say something catchy, give your reasons for whatever u're trying to say, then sum it all up, or make the reader understand where you're coming from. I think a lot good albums work like that...they catch you, slowly make u get some sort of message, and then end by making sure that u absalutly missed nothing of what you thought to be the message. Of course thats just me and my idea. i think its an interesting topic though because there are a lot of albums i'd probably arrange differently, but the way i see it that would also change around the message and order of ideas.
o....the long winters albums...i was on an airplane on the way back from st louis last week and had the wonderful luck of sitting right next to one of the engines. So i grabbed my earphones and turned up the long winters and from blue diamonds forward i didnt feel the need to skip once. theres just something about the album that makes me feel guilty skipping around...like im missing something thats better off not missed.....its past my bed time now
Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 8:22 pm
Yes, there is. I generally hate using mp3's (unless sampling). I consider each album, from any band, to be rather much like a book; the songs, chapters. I generally never skip any album I listen to, and when I do, I feel guilty about it.
A book is most often played, read, from beginning to end and while its fun to listen to your favorite songs, the albums themelves sound so much better.
take, for example, When I Pretend to Fall. Generally, you're right, it does feel as if they album is split into separate parts, and that for one, makes it so much better.
It is as if (for me), the first 4 songs (Blue Diamonds, Scared Straight, Shapes, Cinnamon) show a more of the happy parts of one's life.
Blue Diamonds, much like you were anywhere from 16-on, partaking in illegal activities (drinking underage and doing drugs), and getting away with it. The idea not only can your talk out of your ass, but some people would actally believe you. Thigns like that. To be more specific the main "character" has just graduated high school, or college or whatever and is now able to live life on their own and stuff.
Scared Straight, is sort of a reflection apon one's self. We all play these little games with each other, these mind games, that we don't know, or didn't mean to cause problems but yet they do. The main "character" runs into a girl, who has lived, through his "adventures" and she's in a real shitty situation. Her family, or her friends, totally abuse her, and suck her completely dry of happiness and she's about to "do herself in," when the main character steps in tells her "it's true little Miss Mean Mini-Bar Guard, we're gonna have to try something new." He basically steps into her life, and is now her only outlook of joy in the shit-ass world.
Shapes, is the said person rebelling against her ex-family, ex-friends and the main character is there to cheer and watch on.
Cinnamon, the actual juciey, ultra-love, romantic part. The girl and the main character totally head-over-heels for one another and loving every minute of it.
Now this is where the album transformers, changes.
Bride and Bridle, so where the relationship between the girl and the main character hit a rough spot. They fight. He left, to calm himself down, only to returned to find she's still pissed, and he's left saying sorry.
Blankhog, well, obviously things ae better between the girl and the main character, and we see the more symbolic side of the relationship. Less of the "wild sex" that Cinnamon had, more of the, "hold me by your arms."
It'll Be a Breeze. the main character doens't quite feel the same around the girl, like she's hiding something, or he's too in love to notice.
Stupid, is when thigns come to a head, they grow distance from each other and the relationship ends.
Prom Night at Hater High, now that the main character is single again, he finds that the single life, is really no different from what it was in high school. They're those people who don't give you the time of day, the people that don't deserve each other, and those that make you wonder how they got in a relationship in the first place.
New Girl, is the main chacater find another girl and sort of amazed by her, but by no means does it equal the love and emotion found in Scared Straight - Cinnamon.
The Sound of Coming Down, is the beginning of the new relationship, where things are playing out rough much with a certain coy or wit, and completly nothing like the happy-go-luck pouncing that was found in cinnamon.
Nora, now, I'm split between Nora. Either Nora is the original girl that existed between Scared Straight and Stupid, in which case, he's reflecting apon the relationship thinking that maybe it wasn't what he originally thought it to be, and he's glad that he's no longer in it. What started this reflection is when he's comparing his new relationship with the old new....
...Or Nora is the girl mentioned in the new girl, and that relationship didn't last very long, as the main character was missing that girl from Scared Straight to Stupid. It eventually go so bad that she dumped him, and he's thinking how much he was being leeched apon.
Now, after getting through all that, is it still the same just to skip from Cinnamon to Stupid?
Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 9:35 pm
i'm probably one of the few digital-music-nuts (i've got about 9300 songs or so) who prefers listening to full albums...most of those 9000-odd tracks are in full album form.
the way i figure it, a band designed a record in one way, so i ought to listen to it that way. most good albums (and most of what i have is pretty good, i'd say) stand not only on singles but as a coherent 'master work'... it's one of the cool things about most 'indie' music that it's not a collection of shit designed around one radio-hit song.
Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 9:46 pm
sorry to go Cattywampus, on you, but eric!, is that by chance, a relative to Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson?
Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 10:18 pm
if you mean the avatar, that's just me with a few beers. sorry.
Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 11:10 pm
then are you, by chance relatived to Rowan Atkinson?
if picture does not work
Anyway, to bump this back on-topic.
I really do consider albums be listened to without skipping, because, well, it's just not the same when you skip around.
Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 11:43 pm
my eyebrows are better.
and with that, my job is done here.
Posted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 2:58 pm
We spent a long time sequencing both records. Some of the songs you know right where they're supposed to go. Before we had even finished recording 'Give Me a Moment', Sean was already calling it the first song on the record.
When I Pretend to Fall was tougher. Shawn Wolfe, who designed the cover art, was adamant that the last song on the record should be Cinnamon. It felt lik ethe last song to him and he still hasn't forgiven me for moving it forward. The choice to put Blanket Hog in the middle was a conscious act of dividing the record into sides, like a vinyl record. It's a hump to get over, a fake climax. Then the second half of the record is on it's own terms.
We did that on the first record too. Medicine Cabinet Pirate did the same thing in a way.
I'm loving your interpretations of the story of the records though.
Posted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 9:29 pm
John wrote: The choice to put Blanket Hog in the middle was a conscious act of dividing the record into sides, like a vinyl record. It's a hump to get over, a fake climax. Then the second half of the record is on it's own terms.
That's good to hear. I think that once I accepted the album as a two parts, I got it (as much as I get anything). I'm so accustomed to forcing albums into long strings, I think I've nearly lost my ability to feel the two-act structure.
And BladeRunner, as Princess of the Concept Album Kingdom, I'd love to bunk with your idea, but ever since Miss Michaela Dee convinced me that "It'll Be a Breeze" is voiced from the accident-addled brain of a dying man, well...I don't know if I could find a straight line from that to "Stupid."
I love my own topic so much that I spent quiet breakfast time trying to think of albums whose order I wouldn't change for the world. Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark
has always felt perfectly arranged. The last two Vanderslice albums. They Might Be Giants' Flood
. Um...bring it, c'mon.
Posted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:11 pm
the photo album is a particularly nice listen all at once.
Posted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 11:33 pm
ever since Miss Michaela Dee convinced me that "It'll Be a Breeze" is voiced from the accident-addled brain of a dying man, well...
Coincidentally, a month or so ago I wrote a music video treatment for this song that is close to this idea, but not quite...
Posted: Sun Aug 10, 2003 12:46 am
meg wrote:And BladeRunner, as Princess of the Concept Album Kingdom, I'd love to bunk with your idea, but ever since Miss Michaela Dee convinced me that "It'll Be a Breeze" is voiced from the accident-addled brain of a dying man, well...I don't know if I could find a straight line from that to "Stupid."
well pfffffffffffffffffft ppbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbpahpfft!
...exactly. And I actually sounded that all out to be phonic accurate!
Posted: Mon Aug 11, 2003 9:02 am
I think I'm with Shawn on the virtues of ending WIPTF with Cinnamon. Although it hadn't occurred to me, and if asked I probably would've picked New Girl for it's straight-up rockin good-timeyness. Nora's just a bit heavy, which is ok if you want the album to end with a good solid whumph that sits heavy under your ribcage, but I think that most people would prefer to be sent off on a giddy wave of sentimentalism and jangly guitars.
I always listen to an album straight through the first time. Then I have to play with it. Sometimes there will be a song that hurts too much to listen to casually, so I'll have to skip it if I'm, say, in the car and other people are talking.
Posted: Tue Aug 12, 2003 4:27 pm
John wrote:The choice to put Blanket Hog in the middle was a conscious act of dividing the record into sides, like a vinyl record. It's a hump to get over, a fake climax.
I always thought of Blanket Hog as the climax of the record as well, but I didn't realize you guys were fakin'
Anyway :) Personally, that's one of my favorite songs on the record, it's gorgeous, I think of it as a good hump, not a bad hump.
heh heh.. good hump. kay, yeah, back to lurking for me.
Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2003 6:34 pm
Most boys can't fake a climax, but I practiced by reading the teachings of my Guru, Gorgon Sumner.
I know there was already a Blanket Hog thread, and I know opinions are divided, but thank you for saying you like it.
Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2003 9:23 pm
John wrote:Most boys can't fake a climax, but I practiced by reading the teachings of my Guru, Gorgon Sumner.
p.s. sting is hottt.
p.p.s. string + tantric sex = even hotter.
Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2003 7:04 am
gorgon is where the gorgonites from small soldiers live
Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2003 3:34 pm
Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2003 6:30 pm
do tell me im not the only one who's seen small soldiers...its a most guiltily giddyfying adventure through the minds of plastic action figures with the minds of military weapons!